Weddings can be one of the most beautiful, along with one of the most stressful, days of your life.

But when you and your partner already have children, the planning process can seem downright daunting. Whether it’s your children, your partner’s children, or any combination in between, how can you make sure the kids aren’t left out when you walk down the aisle?

Two Durham Region event planners shared their tips on how to include your children on your special day.

Eva Vandersanden, an event planner from Annie Lane Events and Décor in Whitby, says it’s important to include children early on in the process to make the transition between the families easier.

Durham Region wedding planners give tips on how to plan a wedding with children

“[The wedding is] the merging of two families. It’s not just two people. It could be between four, six or eight depending how many kids are involved,” she says.

Wanda Corbett, owner of Just For You Weddings and Events in Oshawa, agrees.

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“It’s important to show them the respect and trust right from the beginning and let them know they matter,” she says. Brides and grooms can accomplish this by letting the kids have a voice on what happens on the wedding day.

Both Ms. Corbett and Ms. Vandersanden say the process can be as simple as letting the kids help choose the menu, décor, music or even get to invite a few of their own friends to the big occasion. They say letting the kids help will make the kids feel more involved and as if it is their celebration too.

“The wedding is a nice party for the whole family,” says Ms. Vandersanden.

Another way to get children involved is to give them a role, such as being a bridesmaid or a flower girl. Ms. Corbett says to not be afraid to break traditional roles. She says she has been to weddings where older children have walked the parents down the aisle and given them away.

“Traditions have changed so much. It used to be the father walking the bride down the aisle, you aren’t seeing just that anymore,” she says.

Roles can also be as simple as letting the kids read a poem or speech during the ceremony. They can also perform a song, a dance or play instrument at the ceremony. Ms. Corbett says never to underestimate what children can do.

“Children are so smart at putting things together. They know computers ... so for them to do PowerPoint presentation of their family, they could do that easily,” she says.

Ms. Corbett says the most beautiful way she has seen couples include children was during the wedding ceremony. Some options include writing the kids into the vows or having a family unity ceremony. One of Ms. Corbett’s favourite unity ceremonies is the sand ceremony. The sand ceremony lets each family member choose his or her favourite colour of sand to pour into a clear glass container. After the sand is combined, the jar is shaken to create a unique pattern to be displayed as a unity reminder.

Ms. Corbett says including the children in such an intimate part of the ceremony usually has deep meaning that resonates with the child. She says the most touching ceremony she has ever experienced was where the parents presented their six-year-old son with a ring of his own after the vows.

“When they gave him the ring ... he cried. Everyone in that church cried, seeing that little boy cry.”

Age can play a part in what the best role is for your child at your upcoming nuptials. Ms. Corbett recommends including children in the wedding process around the age of five, because kids at that age can understand the importance of the day.

She says kids under the age of 10 can have simpler roles, such as saying grace or presenting the parents with a gift during the ceremony. Older children can do speeches or toasts. She says ultimately what role is best for your child depends on their comfort level and maturity.

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“It all depends on the individual kid, some kids are a lot more mature then other kids their age, while others aren’t ready.”

From bridesmaids to decorations, to unity ceremonies, there are many ways to include your children that will make the day special for the whole family, but Ms. Corbett says the most important thing to keep in mind is to use the time before and at the wedding to build a strong foundation between the families.

“It’s really important for them at this time to know that they are part of the [family] unit right from the beginning.”